Hybrid vigour: Ecce Homo at the UJ Art Gallery

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UJ Arts & Culture presents the Yannis Generalis’ exhibition Hybrid Vigour: Ecce Homo at the UJ Art Gallery, Kingsway Campus. UJ Arts & Culture is a division of the Faculty of Art, Design and Architecture (FADA) at the University of Johannesburg.

Hybrid Vigour: Ecce Homo at the UJ Art Gallery
Hybrid Vigour: Ecce Homo at the UJ Art Gallery

Born in Africa to Greek immigrant parents, Generalis grew up between Zimbabwe, Botswana, Greece and South Africa. A witness to profound socio-political events in these four countries during his formative years, and exposure to a richness of cultural diversity has brought a multi-layered perspective to his work, while his early studies in the field of psychology, and international relations has influenced his storytelling.

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The three-part exhibition includes both figurative and abstract drawings and paintings in mixed media (such as rust imprinting, dust, solvents, ink, pigments, embroidery) and hybridised art objects (such as re-purposed found objects), as well as an installation centred around a colossal ritual garment.

Generalis delineates the gallery space into three distinct areas of visual communication and employs terms used to describe sacred ritual spaces, such as ancient Greek temples (The Narthex, Naos and Sanctum). These spaces are presented as a visual timeline of ritual poiesis (creation) with each area showcasing different hybrid processes of art-making. He, thus, explores the relationship between artist, artwork and space as a performative expression of a queer creative self. This body of work is an exploration of the Self, in the process of creation, as enacted under the tyranny of a heteronormative landscape.

Generalis has borrowed the term hybrid vigour, from genetics and applied it to the art-making process, as such coining new terminology. Scientifically the term is used to describe the tendency of cross bread individuals to display characteristics, which are superior to their progenitors. Hybrid vigour is used as a metaphorical toolbox, to examine the visual strata that comprise aspects of the work, which manifest something new.

He strategises and overlaps, a multitude of sociocultural influences that have informed this body of work. In this way he makes visible his own fluid identity in the process of art-making. These complex layers of meaning and signification are the drivers of what he calls hybrid vigour.

Friedrich Nietzsche, believed that artists become vessels for communicating the Self by making art. The words he used, in the title of his last published book, Ecce Homo (Behold the Man): How One Becomes What One Is, were purportedly the words used by Pontius Pilate when he presented Jesus of Nazareth to the crowd that condemned him to the cross.

Nietzsche’s use of these words (ecce homo) strips them of their shackles of divinity, appropriating them into his own worldly background. He challenges his readers to reconsider the original intention of dogmatic truth implied within Christ’s martyrdom and transcendence. Truth, Nietzsche suggests, needn’t require dying on the cross. In doing so, he achieves a different kind of transcendence, one that is firmly present in becoming who you are, by beholding this man (homo), this body, this exquisite and unique embodiment of Self.

“Yannis Generalis has presented a solo show and participated extensively in group exhibitions at the UJ Art Gallery over the past few years and has also become a pivotal promotor of arts in this city. His dedication to his craft and spatial understanding of the UJ Art Gallery is to be commended. We are proud to host his exhibition, focusing on aspects of gender and identity politics, in partial fulfilment of MTech Fine Art: Department of Visual Art: Faculty of Art, Design and Architecture at the University of Johannesburg”, says Annali Dempsey, curator of the UJ Art Gallery.

Hybrid Vigour: Ecce Homo runs from 10 to 31 July 2019. Join us for walkabouts on Wednesday 17 July at 12:00 and Saturdays 20 and 31 July 2019 at 12:00. For information, please contact the UJ Arts & Culture on 011 559 2690.

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